*Topic One: What assignments are worth giving?
*Intro: John Hernandez Story: (Graded 240 students = 1000pages)
*You might have any number of valid reasons for giving an assignment. But which assignments are actually worth giving? Let’s define a worthwhile assignment in the following four ways:
There is a high probability that the student will do the actual work and not plagiarize or copy.
There is a high probability that the student will remember the work beyond the test. (producers of products but learn very little)
The student can redo the work if needed, so that eventually your learning objectives are met.
You will still want to teach after you grade the assignment.
Special Emphasis on number 4 but I will allude to all points –sake of time:
*USE Allow me to generalize and stereotype to make a point: Not an exhaustive list!
Assignments in which the information and work done will appear in the next test and in future tests in a similar form
Assignments that are not easily copied, such as essays and opinion-oriented work (this is good for common core practices)
Assignments that allow for a redo (makes it memorable)
Quick writes of what was learned (no notes)
Think-Pair-Share discussions (the flavor of the day)
Socratic Seminar reviews AVID Tutorial Style
Flash card practice in pairs (Oral Exam Example)
Essays that mimic the objectives and standards word for word or nearly so
Selected readings with sworn statements (A sworn statement is something like: “I, Jane Doe, swear on my Aunt Sally’s Apple Pie that I actually read this material—every last word of it!”
Keep repeating test items all year
*AVOID Allow me to generalize and stereotype to make a point: Not an exhaustive list!
Art projects (Sorry, they often they don’t help on many levels—at least not in core content areas. They might be worthwhile for motivation, though.)
Mindless vocabulary copying (build vocab through reading)
Crosswords (These are typically copied from the first student who finds the answers.)
Posters with pictures, captions, and whatnot (They look nice, but they usually take you nowhere.)
Section reviews (unless you put these questions on the test)
Worksheets of any kind (unless you put the information on the test)
Reading assignments without direction (Try the sworn statement to encourage completion.)
Group work in which one person does most of the submitted work (key point every student turns in the work)
*Topic Two: How to Grade Forty Essays in Forty Minutes—Accurately
*Intro: AP Grading Story (Claim of 800 a day on the plane)
*Make the scoring rubric simple. Break it down to the essentials. Keep the principles in your head.
*Now challenge yourself to score each essay in two minutes or less, no matter what. Adjust your reading speed to make that happen. This is possible even if you are a slow reader. It just takes a little practice. You will soon find that you can score as accurately in two minutes as you can in twenty. Before you criticize this claim, try it.
*Employ TAs or student helpers or use peer editing . You will find that you can save a great deal of time having students apply the rubric and mark the essay so you only need to confirm the grade after you read the essay.
*Remember that peer editing is not only a time saver but also a great teaching tool and a way to validate students’ hard work.
*Offer a one-on-one conference for a dissatisfied student only after two or three other students have also read the student’s essay. Few complainers will take you up on this, but if they do, conferences offer a great opportunity to build rapport and cement your reputation as an accurate grader.
*Topic Three: How to Make the Best Use of Your TA (and What to Do If You Don’t Have One)
*Intro: Grad Pin Story (2 vs. 12)
*How can the employing of TA’s or other students help me get out of district or administrative paperwork? Here are some examples. This list is not exhaustive. Hopefully, you can add to it.
-Almost every administration/district requires the constant and continuous posting of standards, objectives, and daily agendas.
-Endless surveys to record, parental letters to gather and distribute, and the documenting of ever evolving student stats are placed on our personal agendas daily
-I have saved 100’s of hours annually asking myself one simple question: What part of this task must I by law complete?
*A successful teacher is a good delegator of redundant tasks. Does your TA collect and pass back work? Does he/she alphabetize student assignments for easy entry into the computer? Does he/organize books, workbooks, and materials? Does she update charts, posters, and missing assignments for student motivation?
*Can you explain why it is ethical or preferable to select a few students to be in a position of forming judgments on other students work?
-Well, remember that the forming of judgments in the end is always you –the teacher.
-Students benefit greatly by seeing finished products. They rarely get a chance to do that before they start an assignment.
*I am worried about the appearance of unfairness and the invasion of privacy that might come with using students in this regard. How can you help me with that?
-This is a valid concern. If you take the time to fully explain in class to your students and in your syllabus for parents and administrators that all students will be working together to offer “feedback” before final products are submitted for your assessment -then there will not be unnecessary questions/concerns that students are running the show.
*What if I don’t have a TA? And connected to that: What students can I use?
-If you do not have a TA (student or adult), train your current students to do your paperwork on a rotating schedule. Perhaps they can count this work as community service hours.
-It’s training for the real world. It is job training! It teaches responsibility and builds respect. It is an integral part of our profession.
*Topic Four: Avoiding Teacher Burnout
*Intro: Firs day of teaching LAUSD Mt. Vernon (Wigs & Props –don’t take yourself too seriously)
*Know your limits. Don’t try to remember or implement every aspect of every new suggestion that comes down the pike. Pick one new strategy per semester and free your mind of clutter.
*Choose your battles. If the problem that you are trying to deal with is societal in nature, let it go. Be content to change just your little corner of the world.
*Try to laugh instead of complain. Teacher gripe sessions contribute to burnout if you take them too seriously or engage in them too often. Take the time to laugh about the futility a little bit.
*Don’t expect much from administrators, because they are facing a slew of problems similar to yours, and they must deal with a lot of political issues as well. If your school’s administration gives you something, be grateful. Your mission is to learn to survive on your own. Remember that student behavior referrals don’t work, and complaining too much will sink your ship.
*Don’t expect much from parents, either. Unrealistic expectations will leave you frustrated and ready to quit. Speak to parents as often as you can, but remember that they may not share your sense of urgency or your priorities. Or they may simply be unable to do what you would like them to do.
*Maintain a positive demeanor. Control all public displays of frustration. People can misinterpret the meaning behind your emotions, and such misunderstandings can make your life miserable. Staying cool under fire—at least on the outside—will earn you allies in the long run.
*The Two Best Classroom Rules
For many years, I have been searching for the absolute best classroom rules on the planet. I have seen thousands of posted rules. Here is the most effective one, I believe.
Do not publicly criticize, challenge, or argue with anyone in this class. If you have a problem with someone in this room, discuss the matter privately with me at an appropriate time.
When the teacher is talking, remain silent and face the teacher.
*Review: What will you do different in your classroom?
1. Allow work to be graded in class or by a TA or Helper
2. Essays: I: One minute per essay no matter what. II: Student Edit every essay before it reaches you. III: Don’t mark the essay just score it.
3. Use your TA’s for just about everything. Don’t have one? Create one on a rotation basis
4. AVOID Burnout by spending your time with students not doing paperwork.